Let’s talk about yogurt! Yogurt has beneficial probiotics that are great for digestive health. However, milk is a disaccharide and should be avoided. This includes store-bought yogurt because 1) it’s only fermented for 12 hours so many of the sugars still exist, and 2) most store-bought yogurts have added sugar.
Even though yogurt has beneficial probiotics, the sugars often counteract the probiotic benefits.
The good news: It’s really easy to make at home! By making it at home, you can ferment it for a full 24 hours so all of the sugars are eaten in the fermentation process. Also, you can drain the whey which is rich in carbohydrates and lactose and is often difficult for people’s stomachs to handle (lactose intolerance).
There are many methods for making yogurt, from yogurt machines to heating pads to crock pots.
My Instant Pot makes easy work out of this now but I used to use the crock pot method. Here’s how I did it:
1 gallon whole, organic milk
2 Tbsp (exact, not heaping) plain yogurt (store bought is fine for initial batch – see note below)
Step 1: Take 1 gallon jug of whole, organic milk and pour it into a crock pot set on low. Using a thermometer (I use a meat thermometer), heat until the milk reaches 180 – 190°F (max 190 or milk burns) – takes about 3 hours.
Step 2: Once the milk is heated, turn the crock pot off and allow the milk to cool to 110°F. Air cooling takes about 5 hours.
Step 3: Once the milk has reached a temperature of 110°, it’s time to inoculate. Take 1 cup of milk out of the crock and add the 2 Tbsp plain yogurt to the cup. Stir gently with a whisk until large lumps are dissolved. Pour milk back into the crock with the rest of the gallon and stir gently back and forth and up and down.
Step 4: Cover crock with lid and wrap in two towels. Place the entire crock in the over with only the oven light on (the oven light produces enough heat to hold the milk temp at 110°). If your oven doesn’t have a light, place a lamp in there instead. Close oven door and leave for 24 hours to ferment.
Step 5: After 24 hours, remove crock from oven and pour into a colander covered with cheese cloth to drain whey (milk will be loose chunks). Use a rubber spatula to get all the clumps into the colander. Place colander in a large pot or bowl to catch the whey as it drains. Cover and place in fridge. Pour out the drained whey every few hours until no more liquid comes out.
Step 6: Remove from fridge and roll out thick yogurt from cheese cloth into bowl. Stir vigorously until all lumps are removed. Place in jars and refrigerate.
To eat, add honey or real maple syrup to sweeten and vanilla extract, fruit or citrus essential oils for delicious flavor (my favorite is orange essential oil). The plain yogurt is also an excellent substitute for sour cream!
For your yogurt starter, avoid store bought yogurt with Bifidus culture if possible. Bifidus is known to over populate in the gut and doesn’t play well with other good bacteria. It can be tough on sensitive digestive systems. See picture below for the brand I found at New Seasons that doesn’t have Bifidus.
You can speed up the heating process by cooking it on high, but I find this causes the milk to build up on the sides and is harder to clean.
You can speed it up the cooling process by putting the crock in the sink with ice water. Keep a close eye on it if you do the faster method because it cools quickly and dropping below 110° means heating it back up again.